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So long, Newt

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

The following editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune –


Never one to eat his words, Newt Gingrich is nonetheless being fed replay after replay of the famous ABC News clip in which he confidently declared, “I’m going to be the nominee.”

That was Dec. 1. On Wednesday, the morning after Mitt Romney swept five presidential primaries, Gingrich’s campaign staff signaled that he would soon officially concede the obvious: Romney is the presumptive Republican presidential candidate.

That Gingrich lasted this long is a testament to… what, exactly? Monomaniacal narcissism? In their yearlong search for a candidate more inspiring than Romney, Republican voters settled only briefly on Gingrich, after Herman Cain and before Rick Santorum.

In the beginning, it seemed not even Gingrich took Gingrich seriously. He left for vacation almost immediately after entering the race last summer, and his senior campaign staff bailed out en masse the day after he returned. But he hung in there. Within days after Cain flamed out, accused of serial sexual harassment, Gingrich was first in the national polls.

By the time Gingrich had won the South Carolina primary Jan. 21, though, Santorum was on his way to becoming the new Not Romney. It didn’t hurt that he was also Not Gingrich.

Prone to grandiose pronouncements, especially when describing himself or his campaign, Gingrich likes to call himself a “transformational figure.” The translation, per our own Steve Chapman: “Gingrich is not a person with an ego. He’s an ego with a person.”

That ego came with a lot of personal baggage. There’s no point in rehashing it here, except to observe that his rationalization for those bad behaviors bordered on the pathological. “Driven by how passionately I felt about this country, I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” he told the Christian Broadcasting Network weeks before entering the race.

If you love America enough, apparently, you can do anything you want. Or say anything. With Gingrich, this sometimes went beyond harmless free association — moon colony, anyone? — to shameless demagoguery. Gingrich accused President Barack Obama of “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior” and railed against allowing a mosque at ground zero. He was willing not only to pretend that Obama is to blame for the high price of gas, but to claim that President Gingrich would lower it to $2.50 a gallon. At times he sounded willing to declare war on both Iran and Cuba.

The good news is that voters saw through him. Gingrich was eager to indulge — to exploit, really — the party’s irrational but loud outliers. Republicans, by and large, did not take the bait.

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